Spain's King and Queen as well as other royalty and world leaders attended the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. / AFP

News round-up of 2022: International and national news

The death of Queen Elizabeth II brought together world leaders including the King and Queen of Spain and the Emeritus King Juan Carlos and his wife Sofía who attended the funeral in London

TONY BRYANT, DEBBIE BARTLETT, JENNIE RHODES

Spain-UK relations

Spanish royals attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth

Even without Brexit to think about, the UK's relations with Spain continued to be in the news this year, affecting British residents and visitors as well as others in Spain and Gibraltar as well.

As soon as the news broke that Britain's Queen Elizabeth II had died on 8 September, King Felipe, a distant cousin of the late British monarch, posted his condolences on Twitter and he and Queen Letizia went to the British Embassy in Madrid to sign a book of condolence. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez did likewise and also turned to social media to express his sorrow at her death.

Social media messages came from mayors across Malaga province, who also offered their condolences to the many British residents in their municipalities. Books of condolence opened up at the UK consulate and St George's Anglican church in Malaga, as well as in some town hall buildings along the Costa. The Spanish media covered the 10 days of official mourning that ensued and the funeral, at which the King and Queen and the Emeritus King Juan Carlos and his wife Sofía were all present.

OBE for Malaga mayor

The UK ambassador was in Malaga to present the honour

Just three days before the death of Queen Elizabeth, the mayor of Malaga city, Francisco de la Torre, was awarded an honorary OBE for his support for the local British community and the city's relations with the UK. British Ambassador, Hugh Elliott, visited Malaga to present De la Torre with the honour.

Former King in UK court case

Juan Carlos's barristers challenged a High Court ruling

In July, Spain's emeritus king Juan Carlos's barristers successfully challenged a UK High Court ruling of March this year. As a result, the former king could still enjoy immunity for the period when he ruled Spain up to 2014 and therefore could not be sued for harassment in allegations brought against him in London by a former lover.

Driving licences for UK residents

Hundreds told to take a test or be barred from the road

On 30 April, when a grace period for using UK licences after Brexit ended, expats who were unable to swap to a Spanish licence before Brexit, or who came later and had been living in Spain for more than six months, had to stop driving. The alternative was to pay and prepare for theory and practical driving tests - for which there were few appointments in some areas.

While negotiations between Spain and the UK continued for the rest of the year to set up a simpler system to swap to Spanish licences, hundreds of people frustratingly waited for the outcome.

As Christmas came, the news from the British Embassy in Madrid was that a deal was finally done, pending some legal clarifications and approval by the Spanish Cabinet.

Gibraltar's status after Brexit

The UK, Spain and the EU try to reach a deal on the Rock

The UK and Spain were also around the negotiating table this year to try to find a way to give Gibraltar access to the European Union single market without compromising sovereignty.

Two years after the much-heralded Framework Agreement which would form the basis for a treaty cementing the future relationship between Gibraltar and the EU, by Christmas there appeared to have been progress but it has been slow.

No details have been revealed, although Gibraltar's chief minister Fabian Picardo has insisted all the way through that Gibraltar will accept nothing that changes or jeopardises British sovereignty.

The talks are believed to be coming to an end but, as 2022 does the same, there are still some sticking points and it is not certain that an agreement will be possible. In the meantime, as a precautionary measure, the Gibraltar government is also preparing for a "Non Negotiated Outcome" as it did in case of a hard Brexit.

Reaction to the Russian invasion

Associations and individuals mobilised to send donations

When Russia crossed into Ukraine on 24 February there was an immediate outpouring of support towards both the Ukrainian community on the Costa del Sol and to the people living in the country itself. Within days of the war starting, a huge operation had started to collect donations from around the province and volunteers took them to a collection centre in Malaga city organised by the Ukrainian association in Malaga, Maydan. From there, lorry loads of supplies were being taken to the Polish border every day. The focus of the donations changed when Ukrainian refugees started arriving in Malaga and many items instead were shared out between the different groups helping to receive people here.

In March, while people protested and rallied to help around the country, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez offered aid to his counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyev. / SUR

Protests

Spanish and other foreign communities united

A protest was held in Malaga city in March in a show of solidarity with the Ukrainian people and anger towards Russia's invasion of the country. 'Stand by Ukraine' was organised by Ukrainian association Maydan, in collaboration with the Facebook group Expats in Malaga city, under the banner the United Nations of Malaga.

Wounded soldier

Mijas resident is flown home for treatment

Alex Kharkevych, a 40-year-old Mijas resident, who stepped on a landmine while fighting for his home country - Ukraine - near Donetsk, was flown back to Malaga in December. He was treated in Malaga's Virgen de la Victoria (Clínico) hospital where he received treatment for his shattered left leg. After hearing of the case, local specialists and surgeons rallied round to find the best solution for the soldier, who worked as a gardener on the Costa del Sol before travelling to fight for his country.

Andalusian elections

Landslide victory for Partido Popular and Juanma Moreno

Elsewhere in local politics, 19 June saw a decisive victory for the conservative Partido Popular and incumbent president of the Junta, Juanma Moreno in the Andalusian elections, winning an overall majority and 58 of the 109 seats in the regional parliament.

Seven provinces flipped from voting mainly for the Socialist PSOE in 2018 to the PP, while Almeria province renewed its support for the conservatives. PSOE lost three seats and ended up with 30, while the hard-right Vox party received the third-highest number of votes.

At a town hall level, as the year drew to a close, local council's readied for important municipal elections in May next year. Much building work, repairs and resurfacing of roads was under way as they strived to meet past election promises before polling day.

Foreign residents in Spain were reminded to register to vote in May's council elections if they were able. With Britain now out of the EU, UK nationals were informed of the new process to do this by letter, and, as long as they had been in Spain for three years, told to register by the 15 January deadline.